Microsoft is branching out further beyond the enterprise.
On Monday, the tech giant rolled out a slew of announcements tied to its widely-used collaboration and enterprise software. Among them was a new version of Microsoft 365 -- rebranded from its prior moniker, Office 365 -- that’s aimed at customers outside of Microsoft’s conventional customer base: Individuals and their families. Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report stock closed 7.03% higher on Monday to $160.23.
A subscription to Microsoft 365 Personal will cost $6.99 per month, Microsoft said, while a family of up to six people can subscribe to Microsoft 365 Family for $9.99 per month. Both will be generally available worldwide on April 21.
It’s an auspicious time to introduce new collaboration software, according to Vadim Tabakman of workflow automation firm Nintex.
“Right now, it’s a necessity for us to be in contact with our friends and families in this complex time,” he said. “Once we get a better handle on the COVID-19 crisis and things start getting back to normal, people will have become used to using this technology to communicate. It’s going to be hard to give that up.”
Various software firms, including Microsoft, Slack (WORK) - Get Report, Zoom (ZM) - Get Report and many others, have seen an unprecedented spike in usage with millions of people working remotely. Teams, Microsoft’s Slack-esque collaboration platform, surged to 44 million users over the past few weeks. And with the boundaries between home and work life temporarily erased, consumers will inevitably use some of the same tools they use at work to keep in touch with family or track personal tasks.
The Personal and Family subscriptions come with everything that’s included in Office 365, including: Desktop Office apps, 1 TB of cloud storage per person, 60 Skype minutes for calling mobile phones and landlines, and security and technical support.
Microsoft also previewed new features for Teams -- which is free to use for anyone, whether or not they have a Microsoft 365 subscription -- geared at personal, not business use.
The new features will go live in the Teams mobile app in the coming months, wrote Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s head of modern life, search and devices, in a blog post. They’ll make it easier to “connect, stay organized and collaborate,” he wrote.
“Create groups to plan trips with friends; organize a neighborhood gathering or your next book club meeting. You’ll be able to connect in a group chat, make video calls, collaborate over shared to-do lists and assign tasks to specific people, coordinate schedules, share photos and videos, all in one place,” Mehdi wrote.
The personal Teams features will be free to start, but will eventually expand to include other premium features specifically for paying Microsoft 365 customers, according to a spokesperson.
Microsoft already offers Microsoft 365 (née Office 365) to general consumers, but the number of consumer users pales in comparison to business users. Last October, Microsoft said that monthly active business users of Office 365 had passed 200 million, compared to 37 million consumer subscribers it reported earlier this year.
Microsoft may be hoping to strike while the iron is hot, with millions of people stuck at home for the time being and looking for new ways to simplify their personal lives through technology.
“It brings to mind the quote from the Greek storyteller Aesop: Necessity is the mother of invention.” Tabakman added. “The future is bright for the consumer collaboration market.”
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